While there's always a measure of craftiness and trickery that accompanies any political campaign, most of it seems to happen behind the scenes and out of the public eye. But debates are one of the rare occasions that they are completely visible to the American public. Candidates use common debate methods to discredit their opponents, prove their superiority, and simply avoid the questions being asked. Learn how to debunk the debates using this playbook of some of the most common moves seen in today.
Candidates use a number of tactics to create doubt on the issue being addressed or their opponents. They may use quotes (often from unqualified experts or simply taken out of context), redefine words (a common way to respond to a question, "What does ____ really mean anyway?"), misguide the issue (look for false cause, false choice, and any insinuation that the candidate is "like you"), or simply change the subject to avoid the topic altogether.
The personal attack
This maneuver is one of the easiest to identify. Look for the basics of name calling and stereotyping. A candidate may also begin to question their opponent's motives, bring in hearsay, and ask blatantly loaded questions.
This play is not as common, but it is rather effective at getting the focus off of the question and onto specific qualities the speaker wants to emphasize. These types of stories are sure to appeal to the emotions of the audience.
Moving in for the kill
If used, this tactic will happen toward the end of the debate. After all, timing is everything, and candidates use this tactic to dig a deeper hole for an already floundering opponent. You can see this immediately after a speaker makes an error, whether they've misspoken about an issue or have taken an unpopular stance. It's a way for a candidate to bury his or her opponent in their own beliefs.
Now that you're familiar with the common tactics candidates use during debates, you'll be better equipped to read between the lines and get to the bottom of what's really being said.
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